Nicolas Cage Named Talent Ambassador for Macau Film Festival. The prolific actor will walk the red carpet and participate in a master class at the growing Asian film event, which celebrates its third edition this year. The Macau International Film Festival, holding its third annual edition in December, has named international film icon Nicolas Cage as a 2018 talent ambassador. Cage joins Hong Kong star Aaron Kwok as the event's celebrity envoys this year. Organizers said the pairing reflects the festival's "ambition to bring together local and international industry professionals, to highlight Macau's East-meets-West culture and to introduce local audiences to the best in international cinema." Cage follows Hollywood actor Jeremy Renner who served as a Macau ambassador in 2017. No stranger to Asia, Cage recently made a colorful appearance at the Shanghai International Film Festival in June. Relentlessly prolific, Cage has appeared in over 75 films in his 37-year screen career. His next release, horror thriller Mandy, was warmly received by critics at the Cannes Film Festival in May, where it made its world premiere. The film opens in North America on Sept. 14 and will get a special screening in Macau. During the Macau fest, which runs Dec. 8-Dec. 14, Cage will walk the red carpet at the opening ceremony and participate in a master class on Dec. 9. "Nicolas Cage is a brilliant, iconic actor and a star for the ages," said Macau artistic director Mike Goodridge. "We are proud and delighted to welcome him to Macau this year as our talent ambassador, and to show his extraordinary new film Mandy." (Hollywood Reporter)

Oscars: Ukraine Selects 'Donbass' for Foreign-Language Category. The film premiered in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes. Ukraine has selected Sergei Loznitsa's Donbass, a drama centered on an on-going military conflict in East Ukraine, for the best foreign-language film Oscar race. The film depicts a conflict that has been raging since 2014 between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists in a way that evokes an anarchic and absurdist horror show. "Tackling a bloody struggle that these days barely registers in the media beyond the region itself, despite the fact that the shady Ukrainian connections to President Donald Trump and his cronies keep bobbing up in the news, the film feels timely and borne of deep-held despair at the senseless strife tearing the country apart," wrote THR in its review. Named after one of the regions controlled by the separatists, Donbass premiered in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes this year, winning Loznitsa the section's directing prize. The film went on to be screened at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Munich Film Festival, Transatlantyk Festival in Lodz, Poland and at Odessa Film Festival in Ukraine. Donbass is Loznitsa's fourth feature. All of this previous features, My Joy, In a Fog and A Gentle Creature, screened in the official selection at Cannes. Co-produced by Ukraine, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Romania, the film is scheduled to open theatrically in Ukraine in September. Donbass is Ukraine's 11st foreign-language Oscar submission since 1997. No Ukrainian film has made the shortlist for the Academy Awards. (Hollywood Reporter)

Amandla Stenberg defends her upcoming controversial Holocaust film. Amandla Stenberg's upcoming film "Where Hands Touch," which is set during the Holocaust, has raised many eyebrows ahead of its release. The romantic period piece from filmmaker Amma Asante revolves around the romance between two German teenagers -- Stenberg as a biracial young woman coming of age during the time of the Holocaust and George MacKay as a member of the Hitler Youth -- and when Variety posted a first look image from the film back in early 2017, social media users criticized the drama for romanticizing Nazis. Asante quickly took to social media to defend her project and clarify her purpose, writing, "This film does not romanticize Nazis in any way." The writer and director explained that the film is a passion project of hers because she wants to shine a light on the existence of "Rhineland bastards," the German children of color who grew up under Hitler's rule. Stenberg -- who also stars in "The Hate U Give," which is premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival along with "Where Hands Touch" -- was interested in starring in the Holocaust movie because she has wanted to work with Asante since her 2013 film "Belle," which is the first time Stenberg says she saw representation of a historical biracial experience on screen. "I think something that [Asante] is the most fascinated by and thinks is the most profound is the intersection of identity and how it's changed by our environments and our governments and by our peers and our families, and that was her intention with 'Where Hands Touch,'" Stenberg tells Variety during a recent interview for her Young Hollywood cover. "She spent time writing over the past 12 years and it's her baby and her passion project... She always does what she does with a deep and open heart towards how she can portray identity and how through portraying identity throughout history, how she can draw comparisons and hopefully teach lessons about what's happening now." Like Asante, Stenberg was interested in helping to share the history of the Rhineland bastards because, she says, "We lack a range of the experience of black people throughout history, let alone a story about someone who is biracial." "People don't really know that biracial children existed then," Stenberg says. "These biracial children where the children of French soldiers and German women who had fallen in love during World War I." Speaking about her character, Stenberg explains, "Leyna is a child who is walking a very dangerous tight rope. She is not living the Jewish experience. She is experiencing racism and persecution, which ends up leading to her being sent to a concentration camp where she lives an experience parallel to that of Romani people or disabled people or mentally ill people or outcasts -- those who were not Jewish and were not sent to extermination camps, but were persecuted and forced to work... that's where those biracial children were sent at that time." Stenberg understands that the subject matter may be perceived as controversial, but she defends the film's intent. "I think it's challenging for people to conceive of a story about the Holocaust that is not centered around the Jewish experience, but the experience of someone else," Stenberg says. "But I think what the movie does really beautifully is it demonstrates what happens with these tricky intersections of identity and how we still continue to be human and love and be loved, despite that." (PageSix)


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